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On March 27, 2005, ABC debuted a new hospital drama from executive producer Shonda Rhimes. Multiple accolades later, Grey’s Anatomy is going strong at the network, and Rhimes is one of the industry’s most influential showrunners. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review of the show is below:
For nearly a year, ABC preserved Grey’s Anatomy in the network jar of formaldehyde, waiting for the right moment. Turns out that for this overdosed blend of The Paper Chase and ER, the right moment was about three decades ago. As a medical drama, the show has more in common with the sweetly processed tales of Medical Center than more contemporary fare, such as House or even Scrubs.
Other than its allusion to a medical text that is both classic and dated, the title doesn’t fit. It seems to have been chosen more for its clever play on words than for reflecting the contents of the series. Although Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is the first of four surgical interns introduced in the premiere, the focus is diffused roughly equally in this and subsequent episodes. She shares the stage with ambitious, self-reliant Cristina (Sandra Oh), former model Izzy (Katherine Heigl) and socially awkward George (T.R. Knight). Despite different backgrounds, each member of this medical quartet is earnest, empathetic and eager.
Creator-writer Shonda Rhimes gets things started by having Meredith wake up to realize she brought home and slept with a guy whose name she doesn’t know. Of course, because Seattle is a small town, who’d guess that the guy would turn out to be someone she meets later that day on her first shift as an intern? Even if we overlook this highly unlikely coincidence, there is a far bigger problem. Once we get to know a little about Meredith, it’s clear she is far too responsible and uptight to engage in such promiscuous behavior. No matter. When Grey’s Anatomy is determined to set up a dramatic conflict, here or later in the series, the end always justifies the means.
In the premiere, the four interns get acquainted. By the second episode, all except Cristina have become roommates in the home formerly occupied by Meredith’s mother, who once had been a well-known surgeon. One of their supervisors, Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson), introduced as “The Nazi” for her stern and demanding ways, softens considerably after her initial outburst. Indeed, except for Alex (Justin Chambers), a mean-spirited bully of an intern, all the characters are as warm and soft as operating room blankets.
The cast is solid and as diverse as any to be found on the small screen, and the direction by Peter Horton is sharp and well-paced. What’s missing, though, is the ring of authenticity. It’s not just seeing surgical interns greet an emergency medical helicopter or, in a later episode, a patient with prostate cancer rejecting “Izzy” as a doctor because he fantasized about her after seeing her in a lingerie ad. That’s part of it, all right, but mostly each episode is just too symmetrical, too neatly planned. Without those haphazard and chaotic moments, reviews like this one could soon become autopsies.
Bottom Line: Can this medical drama be saved? Not without radical surgery. — Barry Garron.
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